The tally of utilities asking the Department of Energy for smart grid stimulus grants continues to rise.
This time around the action is out of Texas, where municipal utility Austin Energy is seeking up to $123 million for itself and a nonprofit smart grid partnership it's backing, and Oncor is taking a $3.5 million demonstration grant request on to the $317 million in commercial-scale project grants it's already applied for.
Austin Energy's grant requests were noted by the Austin American-Statesman newspaper, which reports that the utility is seeking two separate piles of money for its smart grid plans.
First off, Austin Energy wants $113 million in federal stimulus funds to help support its plan to spend $230 million over the next five years to build out smart grid systems across its service area, the article reported.
The utility already had 410,000 smart meters, 86,000 smart thermostats and about 2,500 distribution grid sensors installed across its service territory as of April, Andres Carvallo, Austin Energy CIO, said at the time. By this summer, it intended to have all of its customers equipped with a smart meter, he said then (see Top Ten Smart Grid: Utilities).
Beyond that, Austin Energy's Pecan Street Project is asking the DOE for $10.4 million to support a pilot project to integrate solar power into a neighborhood-area distribution grid, the article reported.
The Pecan Street Project is an ambitious, if as yet not strictly defined, plan to link smart grid systems, distributed generation sources like rooftop solar panels, energy storage and plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles into the grid.
The non-profit Pecan Street Project has landed partners including Dell, GE Energy, IBM, Intel, Oracle, Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Freescale Semiconductor and GridPoint.
As for Oncor, the Dallas, Texas-based utility's most recent request would tackle another part of the grid – the high-voltage transmission system.
Oncor is seeking $3.5 million to help pay for what it called "a unique installation of tension monitoring equipment," capable of real-time, transmission line capacity analysis. That sensing equipment could tell the utility which transmission lines have extra capacity to carry power, helping it manage that flow better, CEO Bob Shapard said in a press release.
Oncor has already made one of the largest requests to the DOE's Smart Grid Investment Grant Program, which has $3.4 billion set aside for commercial-scale projects. That $317 million request included $200 million to speed its planned 3.4 million smart meter deployment, as well as $58 million for grid communications networks and $58 million for distribution automation equipment (see Oncor Makes $317M Smart Grid Stimulus Pitch).
But Oncor's new $3.5 million request would appear to be aimed at the DOE's smaller, $615 million Smart Grid Demonstration Grant program, which is aimed at more experimental projects (see Green Light post).
Another transmission line project seeking funding from that program is a synchrophasor monitoring system being proposed by the Western Electricity Coordinating Council, which oversees transmission across the Western United States and Canada, and a consortium of utilities (see Green Light post).
The first application deadlines have closed for both the investment grant program and the demonstration grant program, and those that haven't applied may not get a second chance, industry watchers have said.
It's likely the DOE may give out the entirety of the money available from both programs in its first round of funding, since the money is meant to stimulate the economy by creating jobs quickly.